Welcome to MSF Field Research


MSF is known for its humanitarian medical work, but it has also produced important research based on its field experience. It has published articles in over 100 peer-reviewed journals and they have often changed clinical practice and been used for humanitarian advocacy. These articles are available for free, in full text - no login required. We sincerely thank the publishers for their permission to archive on this site.


Published Research and Commentary
Conference Abstracts
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Research Resources


  • Outcomes with a shorter multidrug-resistant tuberculosis regimen from Karakalpakstan, Uzbekistan.

    du Cros, Philipp; Khamraev, Atadjan; Tigay, Zinaida; Abdrasuliev, Tleubergen; Greig, Jane; Cooke, Graham; Herboczek, Krzysztof; Pylypenko, Tanya; Berry, Catherine; Ronnachit, Amrita; et al. (2021-02-08)
    Background In 2016, World Health Organization guidelines conditionally recommended standardised shorter 9–12-month regimens for multidrug-resistant (MDR) tuberculosis (TB) treatment. We conducted a prospective study of a shorter standardised MDR-TB regimen in Karakalpakstan, Uzbekistan. Methods Consecutive adults and children with confirmed rifampicin-resistant pulmonary TB were enrolled between September 1, 2013 and March 31, 2015; exclusions included prior treatment with second-line anti-TB drugs, and documented resistance to ofloxacin or to two second-line injectable agents. The primary outcome was recurrence-free cure at 1 year following treatment completion. Results Of 146 enrolled patients, 128 were included: 67 female (52.3%), median age 30.1 (interquartile range 23.8–44.4) years. At the end of treatment, 71.9% (92 out of 128) of patients achieved treatment success, with 68% (87 out of 128) achieving recurrence-free cure at 1 year following completion. Unsuccessful outcomes during treatment included 22 (17.2%) treatment failures with fluoroquinolone-resistance amplification in 8 patients (8 out of 22, 36.4%); 12 (9.4%) lost to follow-up; and 2 (1.5%) deaths. Recurrence occurred in one patient. Fourteen patients (10.9%) experienced serious adverse events. Baseline resistance to both pyrazinamide and ethambutol (adjusted OR 6.13, 95% CI 2.01; 18.63) and adherence <95% (adjusted OR 5.33, 95% CI 1.73; 16.36) were associated with unsuccessful outcome in multivariable logistic regression. Conclusions Overall success with a standardised shorter MDR-TB regimen was moderate with considerable treatment failure and amplification of fluoroquinolone resistance. When introducing standardised shorter regimens, baseline drug susceptibility testing and minimising missed doses are critical. High rates globally of pyrazinamide, ethambutol and ethionamide resistance raise questions of continued inclusion of these drugs in shorter regimens in the absence of drug susceptibility testing-confirmed susceptibility.
  • Ethics of emerging infectious disease outbreak responses: Using Ebola virus disease as a case study of limited resource allocation.

    Nichol, AA; Antierens, A (Public Library of Science, 2021-02-02)
    Emerging infectious diseases such as Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), Nipah Virus Encephalitis and Lassa fever pose significant epidemic threats. Responses to emerging infectious disease outbreaks frequently occur in resource-constrained regions and under high pressure to quickly contain the outbreak prior to potential spread. As seen in the 2020 EVD outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the current COVID-19 pandemic, there is a continued need to evaluate and address the ethical challenges that arise in the high stakes environment of an emerging infectious disease outbreak response. The research presented here provides analysis of the ethical challenges with regard to allocation of limited resources, particularly experimental therapeutics, using the 2013-2016 EVD outbreak in West Africa as a case study. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with senior healthcare personnel (n = 16) from international humanitarian aid organizations intimately engaged in the 2013-2016 EVD outbreak response in West Africa. Interviews were recorded in private setting, transcribed, and iteratively coded using grounded theory methodology. A majority of respondents indicated a clear propensity to adopt an ethical framework of guiding principles for international responses to emerging infectious disease outbreaks. Respondents agreed that prioritization of frontline workers' access to experimental therapeutics was warranted based on a principle of reciprocity. There was widespread acceptance of adaptive trial designs and greater trial transparency in providing access to experimental therapeutics. Many respondents also emphasized the importance of community engagement in limited resource allocation scheme design and culturally appropriate informed consent procedures. The study results inform a potential ethical framework of guiding principles based on the interview participants' insights to be adopted by international response organizations and their healthcare workers in the face of allocating limited resources such as experimental therapeutics in future emerging infectious disease outbreaks to ease the moral burden of individual healthcare providers.
  • Delivering health and nutrition interventions for women and children in different conflict contexts: a framework for decision making on what, when, and how.

    Gaffey, MF; Waldman, RJ; Blanchet, K; Amsalu, R; Capobianco, E; Ho, LS; Khara, T; Garcia, DM; Aboubaker, S; Ashorn, P; et al. (Elsevier, 2021-01-24)
    Existing global guidance for addressing women's and children's health and nutrition in humanitarian crises is not sufficiently contextualised for conflict settings specifically, reflecting the still-limited evidence that is available from such settings. As a preliminary step towards filling this guidance gap, we propose a conflict-specific framework that aims to guide decision makers focused on the health and nutrition of women and children affected by conflict to prioritise interventions that would address the major causes of mortality and morbidity among women and children in their particular settings and that could also be feasibly delivered in those settings. Assessing local needs, identifying relevant interventions from among those already recommended for humanitarian settings or universally, and assessing the contextual feasibility of delivery for each candidate intervention are key steps in the framework. We illustratively apply the proposed decision making framework to show what a framework-guided selection of priority interventions might look like in three hypothetical conflict contexts that differ in terms of levels of insecurity and patterns of population displacement. In doing so, we aim to catalyse further iteration and eventual field-testing of such a decision making framework by local, national, and international organisations and agencies involved in the humanitarian health response for women and children affected by conflict.
  • Behavioural interventions to address rational use of antibiotics in outpatient settings of low‐income and lower‐middle‐income countries

    Nair, MM; Mahajan, E; Burza, S; Zeegers, MP (Wiley, 2021-01-16)
    Objectives To explore the current evidence on interventions to influence antibiotic prescribing behaviour of health professionals in outpatient settings in low‐income and lower‐middle‐income countries, an underrepresented area in the literature. Methods The systematic review protocol for this study was registered in PROSPERO (CRD42020170504). We searched PubMed, Embase and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) for studies relating to antibiotic prescribing of health professionals in outpatient settings in low‐income and lower‐middle‐income countries. Behavioural interventions were classified as persuasive, enabling, restrictive, structural or bundle (mix of different interventions). In total, 3,514 abstracts were screened and 42 studies were selected for full‐text review, with 13 studies included in the final narrative synthesis. Results Of the 13 included studies, five were conducted in Vietnam, two in Sudan, two in Tanzania, two in India and two in Kenya. All studies were conducted in the outpatient or ambulatory setting: eight took place in primary health centres, two in private clinics and three in pharmacies. Our review found that enabling or educational interventions alone may not be sufficient to overcome the ingrained incentives to link revenue generation to sales of antibiotics, and hence, their inappropriate prescription or misuse. Bundle interventions appear to be very effective at changing prescription behaviour among healthcare providers, including drug sellers and pharmacists. Conclusions Multi‐faceted bundle interventions that combine regulation enforcement with face‐to‐face education and peer influence may be more effective than educational interventions alone at curbing inappropriate antibiotic use.
  • Traumatic Injuries are the Main Indication for Limb Amputations During and After Humanitarian Crises

    Naidu, P; Dominguez, LB; Trelles, M; Chu, KM (Springer, 2021-01-15)
    Background Populations at risk during humanitarian crises can suffer traumatic injuries or have medical conditions that result in the need for limb amputation (LA). The objectives of this study were to describe the indications for and associations with LA during and after humanitarian crises in surgical projects supported by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Methods MSF-Operational Center Brussels data from January 1, 2008, to December 31, 2017, were analyzed. Surgical projects were classified into (annual) periods of crises and post-crises. Indications were classified into trauma (intentional and unintentional) and non-trauma (medical). Associations with LA were also reported. Results MSF-OCB performed 936 amputations in 17 countries over the 10-year study period. 706 (75%) patients were male and the median age was 27 years (interquartile range 17–41 years). Six hundred and twenty-one (66%) LA were performed during crisis periods, 501 (53%) during conflict and 119 (13%) post-natural disaster. There were 316 (34%) LA in post-crisis periods. Overall, trauma was the predominant indication (n = 756, 81%) and accounted for significantly more LA (n = 577, 94%) in crisis compared to post-crisis periods (n = 179, 57%) (p < 0.001). Discussion Our study suggests that populations at risk for humanitarian crises are still vulnerable to traumatic LA. Appropriate operative and post-operative LA management in the humanitarian setting must be provided, including rehabilitation and options for prosthetic devices.

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